The Evolution of Yaya Toure

The Evolution of Yaya Toure

It’s no secret that Yaya Toure is a large part of City’s success this season. Ranked 2nd in average passes per game and 3rd in pass percentage among midfielders in the EPL, Yaya is a midfielder that keeps the ball and spurs City’s dominance in possession. His role as a player for City has evolved over the past few seasons, becoming more of an offensive threat. Here, I look at how his passing, defensive, and attempts on goal statistics have changed in the past 2 seasons.

I use data from this current season (2011/2012) and last season (2010/2011). To enable comparison, I also extend Yaya’s statistics this season to represent what he would finish the season with if he kept up his current pace. For example, he has 2 goals so far this season, and if he kept this pace up he would finish with an estimated 5 goals (rounded)

 

Passing

How have Yaya’s passing statistics changed from last year to this year? For the most part, he has simply extended his dominant numbers to become even more dominant and efficient. For example, he has increased his pass completion percentage from an already impressive 84%, to a whopping 90%.

One might argue this increase is due to the possibility that Yaya is making easier passes that are completed more often, hence the higher pass completion percentage. This assertion is not supported though. The percentage of passes he makes forward has actually increased from 47% to 49%. These are generally tougher passes to make. Also, he has decreased the percentage of his passes that go backwards to only 11%, down from 19%. Again, this supports the idea that Yaya has improved his passing efficiency and frequency all while making tougher passes.

Finally, Yaya has vastly improved his chances created rate from creating a chance on average every 80 minutes to creating a chance on average every 61 minutes. From the second column, we can see that he is on pace to create 39 chances, up from 33 last season. He has also already matched his assist total from last season and is on pace for a total of 10 this season. These improvements in chance creation and assists could be a function of Yaya’s improvement, but could also be related to City’s influx of stronger players and offensive dominance this season. Just something to keep in mind.

Defensive:

From the graph above, one might conclude that Yaya’s defensive performance has actually decreased this season. There a number of reasons we should be hesitant to jump to that conclusion.

First, while his pace for ground 50-50’s and aerial 50-50’s is down from last year (120 vs. 166 and 39 vs. 100, respectively) he is actually winning a higher percentage of these challenges. For ground 50-50’s, he has won 50% compared to only 44% last season. Similarly, for aerial 50-50’s he has won 50% compared to 34% last year. His decrease in these two types of challenge might actually be a good thing. Why? If a player is in better position, they are less likely to be forced to engage in 50-50 challenges, meaning we should be very hesitant when comparing 50-50 challenges data. For tackles, Yaya is actually on pace to surpass his total of last year of 50. Again, he has increased his tackle win percentage to 86% from 76%. Again, we should not read in to the amount of tackles too much, as it is not a valid measurement of defensive performance.

Finally, Yaya has vastly improved in keeping possession. Last season he lost possession 54 times. This season, he is on pace to lose the ball only 29 times. This equates to a loss of possession every 102 minutes. This from the player who makes the second most passes in the EPL. Possession dominance indeed.

Scoring:

Finally, I compare Yaya’s scoring data this year to last year. Here, we see that his scoring numbers have decreased significantly. Again, this is tough to interpret. On one side, we could take the data at face value and say he has simply not been performing as well when it comes to scoring this season. For example, his shooting accuracy has diminished to 31% from 49% last season, and his chance conversion rate has decreased from 21% to 8%.

Another angle which I believe makes more sense though, is that he has settled in to a different and more consistent role this season. As everyone knows, City has added some prolific scorers this season. The introduction of Aguero and the vast improvement of Balotelli and Dzeko have together not only filled the void Tevez left, but as a group have far improved on Tevez’s scoring ability. With these forwards finding the back of the net extremely often, Yaya is not forced in to worrying about scoring. Instead, he can settle in to his more comfortable role as a passer in the midfield.

Realistically, his decrease in scoring numbers is probably a reflection of both these ideas. His scoring ability has decreased a little bit this season, but he has also been less inclined to play a passing and less scoring-oriented role for City.

Conclusion:

Overall, Yaya has settled in to an offensive passing role for City. In terms of passing, he has extended his already dominant passing numbers last season to become even more dominant this season. Defensively, while his numbers have actually decreased somewhat, this is not something we should be too worried about. Finally, his offensive numbers have diminished. As we have seen, this may be a function of both less of a scoring prowess and his settlement in to a role that less focused on scoring. All in all, it is fairly evident that Yaya’s performance has played a large part in Manchester City’s rise to the top of the table.

All of the stats in this post are via the EPLIndex Stats Centre, please subscribe now to get access to Opta Stats and write for the site!